Apples are in the Koans’ blood. The first “Koan” moved to America from Canada – George Ranceer Coon (1824-1908), bought an orchard in the mid-1800s and that tradition has continued through to Almar Orchards current owners, Jim Koan, son Zachary Koan and daughter Monique Lapinski.
Arthur Koan planted the first trees on property which his son Albert Koan Sr (1886-1978) turned into Koan’s Orchard – the oldest business in Genesee County. Albert Senior was also known in the area for his hard cider, which was rumored to have saved the farm during the depression.
Albert’s son Albert Junior (1923-2013) learned his trade working on his father’s farm and at other orchards in the area. In 1944 he married Mary Vass, and moved around the corner from Beecher to Duffield Road, and Almar (Al-Mar for Albert and Mary) Orchards was born.
Albert planted his first trees just south of the Mistenguay Creek in 1948, the same year his son Jim (James) was born. Until the trees matured, Albert supported the family selling his father’s apples, working on other farms and working as a plumber with Staley’s in Flushing. He tried other fruit trees as well, plums, cherries and peaches, but in the end, it was the apples that made the orchard.
Jim Koan has expanded not only the orchard, but the storage facilities and production facilities. In the 1980s he began the process of converting the orchard to an organic operation, and has become a leader in the science and art of organic orchard management. As a part of the organic management program, Jim experimented with using pigs to eat the apples under the trees – the pigs are still an integral part of the farm, eating the pulp from the cider mill and apples not good enough to be crushed.
Jim also expanded the Almar product line, introducing first apple cider vinegar, then apple wine followed by hard cider, also known as Scrumpy. Today, JK Scrumpy is known the world over by people who appreciate organic, traditionally brewed hard cider. The hard cider operation is now managed by his son Zach who has introduced several new varieties of cider, further automated the bottling and labeling equipment and built a new tasting area to replace the taps used in Grandfather Albert’s day. Jim’s daughter Monique manages the Orchard’s finances.